Want your husband to put away the laundry? Or stop being mean with cash? These women have a novel tactic, writes Samantha Brick.

As a marital weapon, its power is indomitable. No wonder the sex strike - women refusing to have sex with their husbands to get their own way - has been used for millennia.

Back in 411BC, Greek dramatist Aristophanes wrote a play about women withholding marital favours until a war is ended - but it recently came back into focus when U.S. actress Alyssa Milano urged women to refuse intimacy to protest against new abortion laws.
And this undoubtedly effective method is still being wielded in Britain's bedrooms.

"It's empowering and keeps him on his toes"

Maggie McKenzie, 38, is married to a financier and has a son, Zephir, 15 months. She lives in Kensington, West London.

Advertisement

She says: When I was young I was incredibly naive about a woman's sexual power. So my first sex strike, in my mid-20s, started off somewhat unwittingly. I've been a vegetarian since I was a teenager (and turned vegan a few years ago) and until that point had always dated fellow veggies. But then I met a meat-eating man and was completely smitten.

Though I really liked him I just couldn't square his diet with my personal values, and found it almost impossible to be intimate with someone who smelt of meat. So - having slept with him once to prove just how good we were together - I told him that if he wanted to forge something serious with me, including further sexual relations, he'd have to give up meat.

Though I hoped he would change his ways, I wasn't expecting him to. So I was shocked when he caved in after a fortnight, and became a vegetarian. Suddenly, I realised how much sexual power I wielded. We went on to date for five years.

In subsequent relationships I used sex strikes to achieve everything from getting my home redecorated to letting loose with internet purchases. I don't have a problem with this or see it as manipulative. It's a win-win; I'm happy and he's sexually satisfied.

Even now I'm a happily married mother-of-one, I'll regularly go on sex strikes in order to get things I want. I'm a stay-at-home mum and my husband, who works in finance, doesn't realise that having a beautiful home is a big priority to me. So if he's dragging his heels on home modifications such as ordering a new wood burner, not getting back to me on wallpaper choices or withholding the credit card, then I'll go on a sex strike. It always works!

My most recent one was over a stunning overseas property I knew would be the perfect holiday home. I'd found a place in Antalya, Turkey, that's a steal, but he wasn't convinced so I went on a month-long strike. Now we've put in an offer so fingers crossed.

I usually have to strike for at least a fortnight, but the longest was six months. I wanted to join him on a work posting overseas in Germany. He wasn't keen and said he would just fly home every weekend. So in the months leading up to the move, and for his initial weekend trips home, I withdrew sex.

While I'd ordinarily miss sex, I had a lot going on so was never tempted to give in. My willpower has got stronger as I've got older. As for looking elsewhere for sex, it didn't occur to me to wonder if he'd stray. He's not that type of guy. Eventually he relented.

Advertisement

He never, ever knows when I'm going on a sex strike. I like to keep him on his toes. We usually have sex two to three times a week.

Withdrawing sex is empowering and effective when it comes to getting what you want.
We've been happily married for almost a decade, so I must be doing something right!

"He threw a strop but I held firm"

Stay-at-home mum Alisa Ali, 23, lives in Sutton, South London, with her partner Sam Solomon, 24, a civil servant, and their two-year-old son Aiden.

She says: Sam and I have been together for four years, and sex has always been important. We make love every other day. We'll even have sex after an argument.

So going on a sex strike last year wasn't something I embarked upon lightly. Instead it was the result of my deep frustration about what I viewed as his lack of commitment to our family, and the fleeting attention he was paying our son.

He works long hours as a civil servant and I understand it's tiring, but at the weekend it seemed to me he only thought of himself. Instead of spending quality time with his family, he wanted to make those 48 hours all about him; having a lie-in, watching football or going out by himself.

For three months, I kept telling him it was important he spent time with me and Aiden, and served as a good role model for his son.

Finally, after a fraught argument, it became clear the only way he'd change his ways was if I did something big to show how serious I was. I knew my son behaved better after having things taken away from him, and I figured his father would be the same.

I didn't tell him straight away. Instead, after he started complaining we weren't having sex, I explained what I was doing. I wanted to spell out to him that his actions had repercussions. Naturally he was upset, and even threw a strop - as "children" do.

Because I had threatened to go on a sex strike before and had always caved in, after his initial histrionics he didn't take me seriously, and kept trying to initiate sex.

Some women openly admit using sex strikes to change their husbands' behaviour. Photo / Getty
Some women openly admit using sex strikes to change their husbands' behaviour. Photo / Getty

I missed having sex, but I never gave in because I wanted results. I didn't have an ounce of doubt he would look for sex elsewhere. I can't imagine how I'd react if he had announced he would strike. I'd wonder if he'd been taken over by aliens!

When he realised I was sticking to my guns he became very annoyed, and told me I was being childish and inconsiderate of him and his physical needs. I stood my ground, saying I appreciated why he felt that way, but his neglectful behaviour had really upset me and was inconsiderate of my needs, too.

Over the next three weeks several rows ensured. But on the fourth weekend something unprecedented happened; he organised a trip out at a play centre for him and Aiden. I was amazed, and so relieved they were having some father-son bonding time. The next day, at his suggestion, we went out as a family.

Then, the following weekend, he arranged for Aiden to stay with his mum so we could have some quality time as a couple. I lifted the ban.

Since then, he has changed to some degree but I still have to remind him of the ban whenever he slips up. Refusing sex helped me learn to draw red lines in our relationship, and I would do it again without hesitation.

"I always give fair warning"

Pippa Vickers, 28, is a secretarial team manager and lives in Orpington, Kent, with her fiance Lee Charlton, 40, a mechanic, and Albie, their one-year-old son.

She says: I've always loved my job, so when I went on maternity leave last year I found it hard. Though I adore my son, I missed the hubbub of office life. Being stuck at home opened my eyes to just how little my partner contributes towards the housework and, dare I say, how lazy he can be.

He works long hours as a mechanic and when we moved into our house the first thing I sorted was a laundry room with separate baskets for different washes - from colours to whites and including one for his overalls, which are always covered in oil and grime that I don't want all over the house.

Yet every day he would come home and leave them either in the middle of the bathroom or kitchen floor. It drove me mad. What added fuel to the fire was every time I calmly asked him to move them, he'd reply 'In a minute'. That minute would stretch into hours.

This continued for three months until one day I saw red. I'd been considering whether a sex strike was a good idea for a while - my partner would have sex all the time if he could, so it seemed an ideal punishment - and when I almost tripped over his dirty overalls yet again I snapped.

That night when he made sexual overtures, I looked him in the eyes and said "No, you haven't moved your clothes after I asked you for the umpteenth time, so you're not getting any for a week!"

We've always had a healthy sex life, sleeping together four times a week, so he assumed I'd give in straight away.

I did miss sex. But my sexual desire was matched by my rather stubborn character. I don't go on strike for too long - it's all part of my strategy! That way I'm less likely to give in. I don't want to ever let him think he's won!

There is no chance of Lee going on a sex strike. But if he did, it wouldn't bother me. To both our surprise I held firm, and just three days into my planned week-long strike he miraculously changed his ways, not only putting his clothes away but helping out with other household chores.

Since then, I've used the sex strike method with gusto! I've done it at least ten times, ranging from one day to three weeks. I always give fair warning, declaring 'strike one' when I'm nearing breaking point, with a 'three strikes and I'm on strike' rule.I always stand firm. If anything, withholding sex has added an extra frisson to our relationship. And his improved behaviour proves it works!